They used to tell a story about branding. In the old Soviet Union, TVs were all unbranded and made in various government-owned factories across the country. Consumers though took to checking out the maker’s marking on the chassis because it became apparent that the TVs coming from one specific factory were of a better quality. Albeit unwittingly, that mark of the factory had become a brand. That rudimentary brand promised a higher-quality TV. It used to be said that a brand was an assurance of a certain quality – an assurance to the consumer that each interaction with that brand would be at a specific consistent level. This was the promise the brand made to its consumers. The concept of the Brand Promise has evolved considerably since then.
Today the Business Directory defines Brand Promise as, “The benefits and experiences that marketing campaigns try to associate with a product in its current and prospective consumer’s minds.” That definition suggests some key components to focus on.
First, that this is largely about the communication that goes out to the current and prospective customers. This communication could be overt, like the brand communications over the media, or it could be more subtle and “felt” in the experiences the consumers have with the brand. Second, that the communication would be about the benefits the consumers could derive from their use of the brand. It follows that these benefits absolutely had to be real, had to be credible, and had to be authentic. It is also clear, that to be sustainable, this had to walk the talk – the promise would have to be kept each and every time the consumer encountered the brand.
This also suggests some challenges. First, consumers are getting harder to please, and are increasingly distracted. They are under constant assault from a data deluge. Under those circumstances, it is hard to zero in on and communicate a benefit to them that is sufficiently unique to be memorable. Chances are, other brands would be communicating with them along similar lines – so how do you stand out? There is also the fact to consider that the media landscape and the media consumption habits of consumers are changing rapidly. That being the case, how do you establish an enduring connect with the consumer? Then there is the challenge of being able to consistently deliver the brand’s promise each and every time. This would require a sustained and concerted effort on the part of all employees, all the time. How can these formidable challenges be addressed? This where the Purpose of the brand must come to the rescue.
The Brand Purpose is at the very heart of everything the organization itself does. It is the answer to the question “What are we here for?” This is a goal beyond just the business and the profits the business generates. The best examples of a Brand Purpose always look at how they can impact society and the world beyond themselves in a positive way. A purpose articulated in these terms can serve as a foundation for defining a corporate culture that is aligned with this long-term vision. In such a culture, all the employees can buy into a larger belief – a way to make life better for their consumers as well as for society as a whole. Peter Drucker said, “Most people need to feel that they are here for a purpose, and unless an organization can connect to this need to leave something behind that makes this a better world, or at least a different one, it won’t be successful over time.”
A clearly articulated, understood, and accepted Purpose that is intrinsically integrated into the DNA of the organization will naturally carry employees along and transform everything they do. This is the right way to engender a situation where the employees are more likely to deliver the promised brand experience every time – since they do not have to “manufacture” the experience but rather this is what they intrinsically believe in themselves.
Then there is the consumer. Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” We believe that this is the solution to genuinely connecting with today’s media-overloaded consumer. Helping the consumer identify with and relate to the Purpose of the brand is a much more effective way of establishing such a connection. This sense of shared values can form the basis for more authentic communications with the consumer that can be sustained over a longer period of time.
That said, the value of a Purpose is not to communicate better with customers or employees. In fact, let’s go further and say that the ability to connect with the consumer is a collateral benefit – the real reason for a brand to have a meaningful Purpose is to be the beacon that serves to motivate and energise the entire organization. This provides the genuine belief that they can do good even as the organization does well. When that happens, everything else falls into place almost effortlessly. It follows that once the Purpose is established and clearly communicated the Brand Promise also emerges quite naturally. If it is clear who you are, it should then be quite clear what you do – and that is what the brand will promise. It’s clear – the Purpose of the Brand is thus more key than its Promise!
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